West Virginia-based metal collective Left Behind’s latest album No One Goes To Heaven is their first since joining label giant Pure Noise Records (Knocked Loose, Terror, Counterparts), meaning expectations were high.
As the album title suggests, the theme circulates around vocalist Zach Hatfield dismissing religion as a means of solace for his mental illness or situation. With a clear, coherent tone similar to Ivan Moody of Five Finger Death Punch, his message is made abundantly clear through cutting lyrics such as “It’s my time / I’m ready / Just let me fucking die” (‘What Makes You Hurt’). The simplistic yet brutal descriptions of his suicidal state captures listeners’ attention through pure controversy alone.
These emotionally-heavy lyrics are matched by equally heavy instrumentation (for the most part). Tracks such as album opener ‘Hell Rains From Above’ and ‘Peeling Wax’ (feat. Matt Honeycutt of Kublai Khan) reach this high standard; both laced with squealing lead riffs and chugging rhythm sections, while the latter is reminiscent of Slipknot. Admittedly this is not particularly refreshing in this day and age, it feels like a tribute to the founders of their old-school metal sound.
This tone is turned down considerably in many songs though, ‘Eternity of Empty’, ‘Shadow of Fear’ and ‘God Calls Out’, have slow, slogging beats that dull the pace. While this allows for diversity in guitarists Jordan Lorea and Bryan Rea’s riffs and clearer drum patterns to shine through from Zak Rea, it does no favours for Hatfield as his voice sounds hoarse and torn, not intended for such long notes. Although this would have been forgivable in one or two songs, its repetitive offence leads half the album to sound like one excessive breakdown. However, the strained quality of Hatfield’s voice arguably manifests itself as an audible representation of the pain and hopelessness felt within the despairing lyrics. The half-time tempo and unembellished instrumentation allow the screams to cut through with more harsh energy, making for an uncomfortable yet cathartic listen.
Although No one Goes To Heaven doesn’t quite meet expectations, it still contains strong tracks that show promise. It seems that quantity may have come over quality though, as the repetition does highlight the weaker elements and leaves the listener yearning for variation.